A successful scammer thrives on approaching potential victims when they are at their most vulnerable. Those in need of locksmith, whether locked out of their home or automobile, fall quite firmly into this profile and as a result have recently found themselves being scammed at alarming rates.
The worst part is, the victims often knew they were being scammed as it was occurring, but felt helpless to protest being in such a precarious situation. Understand, most locksmiths are honest, dependable professional, a few are not. And those few have recently looked to corner the advertising market and telephone listings.
A few bad companies using misleading telephone book advertising and a monopolization of the 411 cell phone listings have positioned themselves quite nicely to ensure they are the first one’s called when a consumer is reaching out in a crisis. The bad guys list themselves erroneously as local locksmiths under phony addresses but in actuality you are getting a call center located in New York or California that then re-directs your call to an unlicensed and difficult to hold accountable freelancer.
Verizon recently expunged over 100,000 phony locksmiths companies from its business listings (which were all bought and paid for) and then separated its advertising entity from the main phone company in an effort to lessen the liability. These companies buy up hundreds upon hundreds of listings under many different names and made-up addresses in major cities around the country. Try to find a locksmith in Delaware, you might get a hundred listings, but in reality it is only two companies and they will then re-direct you to a shady local who then gives them a cut in the end.
Often times these con men use the name of legitimate company, but purchase a listing using that name and their own number. Then when called they send out a local contractor to do the job. A Colorado Connection article by Rachel Welte contained complaints from Mike’s Lock and Key in Widefield Colorado of some shady antics. Having been in business for over thirty years, they suddenly began getting complaints from irate customers that their company had ruined their locks and were overcharging after the work was completed. These were addresses where Mike’s Lock and Key had never actually been. Upon investigation, it turns out the victims had called a number listed in the Yellow Pages under Mike’s Mobile Lock. The number for Mike’s Mobile Lock was also listed under several other company names and none of these could be linked to physical address in the area.
At the very least you will be quoted a price that is almost never even close to what the person who shows up to do the work will actually try and charge. These guys know they have the consumer on the ropes, locked out of their home or car, and will not be above bullying them into paying whatever they can extract. At worst, you could be inviting a dangerous criminal into your home and giving him key access to your front door.
A complaint lodged in Cleveland, Ohio told of a woman who had locked herself out of a car late one evening. After being quoted a price over the phone, the locksmith showed up to the empty parking and demanded twice the quoted price and wanted to be paid in cash. He tried to bully the woman into letting him drive her to a nearby ATM. Fearing for her safety, she refused.
Eventually, she wrote a personal check to the locksmith so that he would open her up her car. When she later had the check cancelled he began to harass her with constant phone calls until she filed a police report. Imagine if he had been there to let the woman into her home.
A professional locksmith should be able to pick a lock or find professional and clean means for the caller to get back into their home. Complaints in the hundreds of thousands have been filed with the Better Business Bureau involving these bogus companies who send out local contractors that act far from professionally.
They often immediately chose to drill out the old lock, destroying it in the process. Again, this is not the first method used by a professional and quality locksmith to gain access. The victim is then forced to let them install a new lock, which leads to exorbitant charges in both materials and labor that are several hundred dollars higher than the price quoted over the telephone.
With these new locks come new keys, provided by the locksmith. If you are dealing with a freelancer, a local contractor sent by a call center falsely posing as a local business, then chances are the man at your door has not been vetted by anyone. You don’t have a number for him, having called a call center, you don’t have an address. And now this stranger has access to your new keys. How comfortable would you feel in this situation?
– The Better Business Bureau suggests finding a good, local locksmith before you actually need one. Check their websites for listings of reliable candidates, the link is provided at the end of the article.
– The phony call-center companies operate under many different names. If you have called a particular company and they answer the phone, “Locksmith service” or just “Locksmith” then ask them what the legal name of their business is. If they refuse or it does not match the name of the company you called, do not continue any further.
– If using the Yellow Pages or other advertising directory, check the ads carefully. Is a specific name clearly identified? Does the number appear in multiple ads? If so, you are dealing with a shady call-center company.
– Legitimate locksmiths will sometimes show up in unmarked cars for quick jobs or emergencies. But most should arrive in a service vehicle that is clearly marked with the company’s name.
– Identification should both be asked for and offered by the locksmith. A legitimate locksmith will require identification and proof that you can authorize the job that needs to be done. Also, they will offer ID of their own in the form of a business card or invoice that reflects the company name you called and that coincides with the name on the service vehicle.
– Always get an estimate before the work begins. Never sign a blank form authorizing the work.
– Demand an itemized invoice. You can’t fight a charge that you can’t easily identify.
– Don’t be afraid to send the locksmith away and try again if you feel uncomfortable with any of the work being done or they do not meet any of the criteria listed above.
Check for a locksmith you can trust located in your area